July 12th, 2024

Library volunteer and new outdoor space receive Blackfoot names


By Herald on July 4, 2024.

Elder Charlie Fox presents Caryl Nelson, volunteer treasurer for Friends of the Library, with the Blackfoot name Siipistaapotaakii (Owl in Flight Woman) on Wednesday during the library's summer celebration event. Herald photo by Alexandra Noad

Alexandra Noad – LETHBRIDGE HERALD – Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The Lethbridge Public Library kicked off summer with a party and a Blackfoot naming of their new outdoor space on Wednesday.

In Blackfoot culture people are given names by the Elders as an honour and to represent who they are as people. Buildings and non-living things can receive a Blackfoot name, but only through people receiving a name as well.

Caryl Nelson, volunteer treasurer for Friend’s of the Library, received the Blackfoot name Sipistaapotaakii (Owl in Flight Woman.) The Owl represents wisdom and the flight is the fact we are all striving for new heights.

Nelson had never been to a naming ceremony, but was amazed how much thought was put into the ceremony.

“There was so much thought put into each part of the process of receiving it, from their spiritual depths. It’s very, enlightening to see how much effort and time was put into their thoughts here,” said Nelson.

The outdoor learning space has a variety of activity items which were paid for by Friends of the Library.

The name given to the outdoor space is Sipistaakomotaan (Owl Sanctuary.) Michelle Dyke, Senior manager of Public services for the library, says it is a space for families to enjoy nature in their own backyard.

“We thought this is a beautiful space that families could enjoy. People can just come to while the library is open. Come in, sit down, read, look at the indigenous plants we have growing here and just enjoy your community,” said Dyke.

The space is home to plants which are significant in Indigenous culture. There is a rare tobacco plant which provides gifts to Elders as a thank you for providing ceremonies. Sweet-grass and sage are used in smudging ceremonies. Mint can also be found in the garden which is used medicinally in Blackfoot culture.

Natasha Fox, facilitator of Indigenous Services, says these plants are beneficial to everyone in the community to help learn about Indigenous culture.

“Anyone can participate in smudging. It’s used for praying purposes and also for cleansing as well. So we like to share our culture with others and it brings a really important aspect to us as Indigenous people to be able to have access to those plant medicines and utilize them on a daily basis if need be,” said Fox.

The library will have smudge kits which can be checked out and used in the outdoor space.

The outdoor space will also be utilized in the library’s summer programs.

“Now that we have an outdoor space, they can look at things from a nature angle. We can do little experiments out here so they can do sciences and and just free play because not everything needs to be programed,” said Dyke.

More information about the library’s programs can be found at http://www.lethlib.ca

Nelson says she loves the new space and is excited to see children enjoy it.

“This is perfect. This this space was underutilized for years and now is coming alive with a new generation. And I just I just think it’s just precious.”

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